I'm boarding the plane on my own for the first time since Jonah was born three and a half years ago. No little hand clasping mine, no voice at knee-height asking “are we on the hairplan yet Mummy?”. No Top-Gun style signalled conversations with Dave, still at ground level folding up the buggy with Lucas wriggling for freedom. Just me, a copy of the Observer to read in glorious silence, and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. It’s astonishing how quiet it is. And how speedy. Children are as notable by their absence as their presence, it turns out.
Dublin has been sun-washed today, its normal pallour replaced by a rosy glow. I pull out my phone and dial. “Home” flashes up on the screen. My boys, big and little, are out in the garden, starting the barbecue as requested by Jonah. Everyone is happy; there has been a trip to the park, and ice creams all round, and now there will be charcoaled sausages, and foil-wrapped bananas with molten chocolate chips. I visualise them as I speak to everyone in turn and realize something that is ridiculously obvious and incredibly good for me. These are my people, this is my family. There’s a place for me in it that’s unlike any other landing slot in my life.
I’ve always been terrible at getting on with things. It takes me an hour to get from the sofa to bed at night, distracted raccooning from one pretty-shiny thing to another before making it up the stairs. Which is why it’s taken me 3 ½ years to go away on a work trip. And it’s definitely time. I’ve been holding on too tightly, standing too closely to my life, worrying that things will disintegrate without me there (delusions of self-importance, much?). And, of course, this all can only get in the way of enjoying it properly. Twenty four hours away is a chance to step off the roundabout and admire the view before leaping back on.